The German government believes that two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq in January are still alive and are being held for criminal not political purposes, public broadcaster ARD reported Tuesday.
A pictures of the abducted engineers
More than two months after two German engineers in Iraq were seized by unknown assailants, the German government says it's convinced that the two are still alive.
"Freedom for Rene Bräunlich," "Freedom for Thomas Nitzschke" read the signs
Citing German security sources, public broadcaster ARD reported on Tuesday that "there are indirect signs of life" from Rene Bräunlich and Thomas Nitzschke. It added that the government however had not made any direct contact with the kidnappers.
It cited unnamed government sources as saying the captors were demanding a ransom and that the affair had no political motives. The longer such kidnappings last, the more optimistic one can be "though naturally very cautiously," the television station quoted a government source as saying.
The crisis team in the German foreign ministry trying to secure the release of the two men said they could not comment on the report because they did not want to compromise their safety.
Kid n appers issue ultimatum
The two engineers were kidnapped in northern Iraq on Jan. 24 near the town of Baiji, which is located about 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Baghdad.
The hostages along with their masked abductors in a video
A militant group called Ansar al-Tawhid Wa-Sunna had issued a final ultimatum last month. The captors have issued two videos in which they threatened to execute the men unless Germany closes its embassy in Baghdad and ends cooperation with the Iraq government. The last video was aired on Feb. 11.
On Monday, around 400 people in the eastern German city of Leipzig, where Rene Bräunlich and Thomas Nitzschke come from, paid tribute to the two kidnapped engineers during a candlelit demonstration to mark the third anniversary of the US-led Iraq war.
Kid n appi n gs n ot the first
Susanne Osthoff was kidnapped in Iraq last year
The kidnappings are just the latest in a spate of recent abductions of German nationals.
In December, German archeologist Susanne Osthoff was released in Iraq after having been kidnapped and held for three weeks. According to reports, the German government allegedly paid the kidnappers $5 million (4.2 million euros).